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Cassell Has ‘Concerns’ About Trade to Clippers

Times Staff Writer

Point guard Sam Cassell plans to discuss his contract situation with the Clippers before joining the team that acquired him from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a sign-and-trade deal last week, his agent said Thursday.

Through his representative, Charles Tucker, the 12-year veteran expressed “overall concerns” about the Clippers, who sent guards Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers to Minnesota for Cassell and a lottery-protected first-round pick in next year’s draft.

Tucker declined to reveal most of the issues they want resolved before Cassell reports to Los Angeles next week, but a contract extension tops their agenda.

“Sam is an All-NBA player, and you want a player of that caliber to be happy,” Tucker said. “I’m not saying that he’s unhappy [about the trade], but Sam just wants some understanding about what’s going on and what’s going to happen. If you’re going to have that type of player in your program, why wouldn’t you want him to come there happy?”

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So, what would it take for Cassell to be happy with the Clippers?

“Well,” he said, “I’m sure we’re going to have some conversations with them about that in the next day or two.”

Cassell’s outspokenness in his desire for an extension, his steep decline in production in the 2004-05 season after having been an All-Star two seasons ago and his age (he turns 36 on Nov. 18) spurred the Timberwolves to end their up-and-down two-year relationship. The Clippers signed Jaric to a six-year, $37.9-million contract and packaged him with Chalmers for Cassell, who has a $6.1 million salary in the final year of his deal.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Cassell has no rights to force the Clippers to offer him an extension or demand another trade. He is scheduled to undergo a physical Tuesday in Los Angeles, and the Clippers have already made things clear to Cassell: No extension discussions now.

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“Sam is a veteran and a professional who understands how this business works,” General Manager Elgin Baylor said. “Both he and his representatives have been made aware of our position with regard to an extension.

“We don’t anticipate any issues, whatsoever, standing in the way of his performing at the highest level here, and being a big part of our reaching our goals this year.”

Cassell, who had hip surgery in June 2004, missed the first two days of training camp in protest of his contract and played in a career-low 59 games.

He averaged 13.5 points, his least productive season in a decade, after having averaged a personal-best 19.8 points and 7.3 assists and shooting 49% from the field to help Minnesota reach the Western Conference finals in 2003-04. He was selected All-NBA second-team.

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Players have one week to report and undergo physicals with their new teams after trades, so Cassell should have technically reported no later than today, but the Clippers extended Cassell’s report date to Tuesday to accommodate his schedule. The delay stirred media speculation that Cassell had refused to report.

“Scheduling issues have been the only reason for any delay,” Baylor said.

Despite the Clippers’ stance, Tucker seemed undeterred.

“They’re getting somebody who’s coming in there as a player ... he’s going to help them right away,” Tucker said. “We’re not trying to say anything to disrespect them, but we don’t want to be disrespected either. It’s just business.”

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